News No. 1 in the world

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About the same time that Rupert Murdoch was telling shareholders that his beloved News Corp. had become the world's most valuable media conglomerate, the company's worth was in the midst of sinking by $1.53 billion.

But Friday's massive stock market sell-off didn't alter Murdoch's message. By the end of Friday trading, News Corp. sported a market capitalization of $67.79 billion, larger than Time Warner, the former biggest media company in the world.

Friday's stock market swoon, which sent the Dow Jones industrial average down nearly 377 points, or 2.6%, coincided with the 20th anniversary of Black Monday, when the Dow dropped 23% in a day.

Media companies held up much better Friday than did the broader markets, with The Hollywood Reporter Showbiz 50 index falling a relatively scant 1.8%. Still, the media conglomerates took their lumps. Disney saw $1.9 billion in value disappear, Sony lost $1.59 billion, and Time Warner, like News Corp., dropped by $1.53 billion.

When it was all said and done Friday, the list of the world's largest media conglomerates, based on market cap, looked like this: News Corp. was first at $67.79 billion, followed by Time Warner ($67.32 billion), Disney ($65.62 billion), Sony ($45.29 billion), Viacom ($26.98 billion) and CBS ($21.11 billion).

Throwing a wrinkle into that order is Google, which some might consider a "media" company and which sports a whopping $201.24 billion market cap. When most stocks were tumbling Friday, Google was rising. Most analysts, however, categorize Google -- parent of YouTube and the world's premier online search destination -- as an Internet or technology company.

Likewise, when cable TV company Comcast is thrown into the mix, it also outranks all the conglomerates, sporting a market cap of $72.5 billion.

Also clouding the issue of which company is biggest is the matter of "market cap" itself, which is basically the amount of money one would have to pay to acquire every share of stock in a particular company. Some on Wall Street, though, prefer to judge a company's size by its revenue.

In terms of revenue, Sony tops the list, but again, the issue is murky because some prefer to put Sony in the consumer goods category; because, while it is home to Sony Pictures and Sony BMG Music, it also makes the PlayStation and a slew of other consumer electronics devices.

After Sony and its $70.3 billion in annual revenue comes Times Warner ($43.7 billion), Disney ($34.29 billion), News Corp. ($28.66 billion), CBS ($14.32 billion) and Viacom ($11.47 billion).

NBC Universal's revenue in 2006 was $16.12 billion, making up just 10% of overall revenue for parent company General Electric.

Every year, Forbes magazine and others use their own formula for ranking the world's biggest companies. Forbes, using a combination of revenue, profit, assets and market cap, determined in March that Time Warner was the largest media company, followed by Disney, Comcast and News Corp.

That News Corp. now ranks No. 1 in market value is no surprise to some analysts who have been bullish on News Corp. all year, touting such well-performing assets as the Fox News Channel and the MySpace Internet property.

But before Murdoch toots his horn too loudly over News Corp.'s market-cap dominance, he should know that his victory has been less about his gains and more about the competition's losses. That's because News Corp. shares are up just 2.3% so far this year, while Time Warner shares have lost 16.8% and Disney shares are down 1.4%.
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